Although it is certainly true that quality Virginia tobacco is harder to find these days, there is still a lot of really good Virginia leaf out there. G.L. Pease, for example, uses terrific Virginia leaf of all types in his blends. Although harder to locate these days since production is nowhere near the level it was even a decade ago, I am still hearing good things from blenders regarding our sacred Virginia leaf and I sure do continue to sample as much variety as possible.
Not too long ago a customer of mine gifted me some Virginia tobacco that he thought was superb; John Aylesbury Sir John’s Broken Virginia. I’ll tell you about it in a moment, but first, John Aylesbury is not a real person. It is a company in Germany that represents, among other things, the tobacco blending house, Planta, located in Regenstauf, Germany. Aylesbury also represents a “small batch” of tobacco growers that has Planta make their blends under the John Aylesbury name. In turn, F&K Cigar is the USA importer of many of those blends. The Sir John’s series of tobaccos is made and imported irregularly. Until my customer’s gift, I’d only smoked one other Aylesbury Sir John’s blend, Curly Cut. I liked it but didn’t think it was special enough to purchase more. A totally different story with Sir John’s Broken Virginia. Here is my review of that one just a month or so ago on www.tobaccoreviews.com after I’d smoked a few bowls –
“The color of the leaf was both bright and dark, and the tin aroma was heavenly; sweet over ripe plumbs comes to mind. At the match there wasn’t much to brag about, but after the first layer had been consumed I detected more depth and the nicotine hit came through a little stronger than what I expect from Virginia Bright. The depth of the Virginia flavor got a little better once I reached the halfway point but never blossomed fully. I suspect this one will age well as the sugar content was halfway up the ladder. I was impressed by the overall presentation after the first couple of bowls I smoked, and think this is a very fine mid-range Virginia for those who prefer sweeter leaf and some of that good old Vitamin N. No worries if you have a sensitive waggler either. This one does not bite which tells me the leaf is of good quality.”
I have since tried to get the Sir John’s Flake Virginia, but it seems to be sold out everywhere I’ve looked. Not surprising, as again, it is produced and imported sparingly. I may not be frugal with my spending when I do finally locate it! I personally think that it’s delicious even fresh, and seems to be a type of tobacco that will age well. So, don’t give up on finding quality Virginia leaf as it’s still out there!
I’m sure we all have war stories about how we have offended others with foul smelling weed that we enjoy smoking. Well, here’s mine; a few years ago after Thanksgiving dinner at my wife’s parents house, I thanked them and then headed back to my home for what I planned to be a great evening of watching football and smoking my pipe. I first went to my tobacco cellar to pick out something different than my usual smokes. I guess I was in an adventurous mood because the annual Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins Thanksgiving NFL slug fest was just about to come on and the family was still at the in-laws, So I was looking forward to a nice quiet smoke with only the sound of the TV and the snoring bulldog sleeping at the foot of my easy chair breaking the silence. I looked through my stash and for some reason, chose a blend that I had bad memories of, although so deep in the recesses of my mind that I couldn’t remember what the issue was. It was a blend made by Dan Tobacco called Gordon Pym. I knew it to be a Syrian Latakia blend, so I grabbed an old Ser Jacopo smooth Billiard that seems to smoke Latakia blends well, and headed back into the house. I sat back down in my easy chair, got out my cell phone and went to www.tobaccoreviews.com to re-visit what I had written about Gordon Pym way back in 2002. Here is a snipet from that review of 17-years ago –
“William Serad once reviewed this blend in P&T Magazine and called the blend an exemplar. So, I quickly bought a tin and loaded a bowl. Gordon Pym was, without question, one of the foulest smelling blends I have ever put into my pipe. The Syrian Latakia was overpowering and harsh. The Orientals and Virginia were far in the background and for some reason, the Maryland leaf did little to provide strength. I will say this for Gordon Pym, if you like to watch the smoke escape from your pipe, this blend will provide plenty of it. Thick clouds of green, ghastly looking smoke with a big white cross bone X in the center!… “
After re-reading that long ago written review, I do admit that I had second thoughts about my choice of tobacco for that Thanksgiving evening. But heck, everyone and everything (except a dinner comprised of liver and onions) deserves a second chance, right? So, I popped the tin and took a look at the tightly packed, ribbon cut contents. Almost coal black due to the aging as the tin was at least 12-years old at the time. I liked the look. I then brought the tin up to my nose and took a whiff. I immediately reeled backwards with eyes starting to water and my upper lip curling back over my mustache. The putrid smell was overwhelming!
After recovering from the initial blast from the Gordon Pym contents, I sat back down in my easy chair in front of the TV and loaded up that Ser Jacopo with some trepidation. Just before lighting up my family got home. Like me, they are also Dallas Cowboys fans and my wife and then 12-year old son and 6-year old grandson eagerly jumped onto the couch across from my chair to watch the game with me. There went my peace and quiet. Oh well… As we sat and talked a little, I lit up the contents of my pipe. Immediately, huge clouds of thick smoke began pouring forth from the tobacco chamber and my mouth. Gordon Pym is a cool burning blend and I puffed rapidly to get a really good fire going. Actually, that stuff was tasting a lot better than I remembered from the many years ago experience when I had smoked it fresh. So, I puffed even more and soon the living room was filled with a thick cloud of smoke.
Then, what was going to be an enjoyable evening rapidly came undone. My bulldog, sleeping by my easy chair, jumped up and headed to the back door and started pawing at it furiously, hoping someone would let him out. My wife and kids started screaming in watery eyed terror and raced down the hall to the back of the house. What the heck?
To make a long story short, I was banished to the garage where I sat all alone listening to the Cowboys/Redskins game on the radio while I smoked my pipe. It was not the best smoke I ever had, but certainly better than the game (my beloved Cowboys were hammered by those dastardly Redskins). And, before retiring for the evening, my wife made me put my clothes in a covered hamper and brush my teeth three times followed by a good gargling of Listerine (talk about awful), before she would let me in my bed.
I still have another tin of old Gordon Pym in my cellar and when the time’s right, I swear to you that I am going to take my revenge!